What causes pain under the right rib cage?

Pain under the right ribcage can affect both men and women for a large range of reasons. The MediFind Medical Team has summarized 10 potential causes for pelvic pain below in order from most to least likely based on our data. Learn more about how MediFind works here. You can also enter your symptoms into MediFind’s Symptom Checker to receive more customized results.

Thoracic Trauma

Pain under the right ribcage may originate from some sort of thoracic trauma. A blunt force that strikes the right side of the torso results in damage to muscle and bone, which persists as pain or soreness. Likewise, exercise that pulls against the right ribcage muscles can exacerbate soreness there and continue as pain. A primary care doctor would recommend rest and prescribe pain medicine to alleviate symptoms. Find a primary care doctor near you here.


Osteomalacia can involve ribcage pain as it progresses into bone fractures and muscle weakness. It starts as softening of the bone due to a lack or malabsorption of vitamin D. When this occurs in children, it is called rickets. A lack of vitamin D may result in patients with little sunlight exposure, are lactose intolerant, or are vegetarian. Orthopedic doctors tend to prescribe vitamin D, calcium, and phosphorous supplements for regular doses. Find an orthopedic doctor near you here.


Inflammation of the cartilage between the lowest two ribs is called costochondritis and may present as pain under the ribcage. This inflammation may happen because of a chest injury, strenuous exercise, or some types of arthritis. Besides pain, it can also present as tenderness and a decrease in pain when the patient does not move or breathes quietly. An orthopedic doctor would treat this using a hot or cold compress alongside anti-inflammatory medicine. Find an orthopedic doctor near you here.

Relapsing Polychondritis

Much like costochondritis, a recurrent inflammation of the previously described cartilage is called relapsing polychondritis and may affect the entire body. The reason for this is unknown but there may be some kind of genetic component. This condition can become severe when the inflammation spreads to sensitive cartilage in the trachea. An orthopedic doctor would prescribe pain and anti-inflammatory medicine. Find an orthopedic doctor near you here.

Actinomycosis Infection

A bacterial infection from actinomycosis israelii can severely affect the face and neck but may also present as ribcage pain. Although the bacterium does not generally cause disease, spread into other sensitive regions may exacerbate a patient’s condition. An infectious disease doctor would prescribe long-term antibiotics but may also surgically drain the affected lesion. Find an infectious disease doctor near you here.


Community-acquired pneumonia, or an infection of the lungs that occurred outside of a hospital, can result in ribcage pain due to inflammation of the ribcage muscles because of fighting the infection. It will also involve cough, fever, and shortness of breath and can become life threatening. An infectious disease doctor would prescribe antibiotics alongside oxygen therapy. Find an infectious disease doctor near you here.

Clavicular Fracture

A fracture of the breastbone may result in inflammation of the surrounding muscle, including the ribs, which will present as ribcage pain in addition to chest pain. A fracture will occur due to sufficient blunt force trauma and must be treated quickly in case of possible internal bleeding. An orthopedic doctor will prescribe pain medicine and anti-inflammatory drugs to lessen the swelling. Find an orthopedic doctor near you here.


Osteoporosis refers to a lack of calcium and phosphate in the bones, making them more porous and prone to fractures. Ribcage pain may occur from a spontaneous fracture because the bones are brittle and break easily. It is more common in post-menstrual women as bone thinning is an eventual outcome. An orthopedic doctor will prescribe biphosphonates and other drugs that improve bone density. Find an orthopedic doctor near you here.

Pleural Effusion

Pleura is a fluid produced to lubricate surfaces in the chest cavity surrounding the lungs. Increased blood pressure and leakage of the pleural space may lead to excessive pleural accumulation called pleural effusion. This results in chest or rib pain but also shortness of breath, fever, and excessive coughing. A primary care doctor will focus on draining the fluid through thoracentesis. Find a primary care doctor near you here.


Arthritis refers to inflammation or swelling of the joints and has many different causes. When the patient’s own immune system results in that swelling, it is called spondyloarthritis, which is a spondyloarthropathy. This autoimmune disorder can directly target the spine and result in pain throughout, including the ribcage. An orthopedic doctor will prescribe anti-inflammatory medicine alongside drugs specific for arthritis. Find an orthopedic doctor near you here.

Understanding the Results

These results are based on the most likely conditions for a 20 to 40 year-old patient that is living in the United States. Our data shows that 96% of the time, this symptom is related to one of the 10 most likely causes. Location and age can also contribute to different results. Use our Symptom Checker to add your information and get your custom results.

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Differences in Age Groups

Ribcage pain appears to target an older population due to the softening of bone as they age. However, autoimmune disorders and infectious diseases have no particular target. Ribcage pain in regards to trauma is a universal outcome after an accident.

Differences among Men and Women

Women are more susceptible to bone thinning than men, especially after menopause. Outcomes between them become quite similar when it involves infectious disease. However, older women should emphasize calcium and phosphate supplements to protect themselves from bone disease.

Last Updated: December 08, 2022

Published By: MediFind Medical Staff